Global Leadership Summit | Jim Collins – Great By Choice

Posted on August 9, 2012


(live blogging notes)

Why do some enterprises thrive and others do not, even in the most difficult circumstances and challenges, and the same ones?

It turns out, that the leadership behaviors map almost perfectly between explorers of the south pole and businesses that thrive and succeed.

The X factor in leadership is humility, not personality, combined with discipline and will.

Today, I want to focus on what else we need. There are three distinctive leadership behaviors you need as the world becomes more fanatically out of control.

Fanatic Discipline. “20-mile march.” The discipline is to stay on the 20-miles, and to not over stretch. All of our companies were fanatically disciplined, that they would hold to even in the toughest positions.

What is your 20-mile march? It could also be personal. Maybe it’s the number of books you read, the number of hours you spend writing, etc. Think about this in marriage.

The 20-mile march is all about consecutive consistent and consecutive performance.

The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change, but chronic inconsistency.

Empirical Creativity. Key word, “empirical.” “Fire bullets, then cannonballs.” Firing bullets uses small amounts of gun powder, and provides calibrated trajectories upon which you can then fire a cannonball. It’s the genius of the “and,” the marriage of creativity and discipline. Creativity is the natural state of humanity, infinitely renewable, instinctive. The question is not whether or not you’re creative, but how to remove all the things that keep you from expressing your creativity. How do you amplify rather than destroy creativity.

Productive Paranoia. The only mistakes you can learn from are the ones you survive. As one company leader, “We’re proud of the fact that we predicted 11 of the last 3 recessions.” It is what you do before you’re in trouble. It’s what you do in blessed times, so that you can be strong when people most need you. If you are only strong when conditions are good, that is “malpractice.”

SMaC recipe: Specific, Methodical, and Consistent. “The greatest danger is not failure, the greatest danger is to be successful without understanding why you were successful in the first place.”

Preserve the Core & Stimulate Progress.

And now for the twist.

Think of an event that: 1) You didn’t cause it. 2) It had a potentially significant consequence, good or bad. 3) It was in some way a surprise. How many of you can think of something like that? Yeah, that’s life.

As a leader, how did you perform in that event?

What is the role of “luck?”

Luck is not an aura. The key is to see luck as a specific event that meets the three tests listed above. “Do you know that your definition also applies to a miracle?” So we make no ultimate claim to the cause of these events. If it meets the tests, you’re hit with such an event.

The great winners were not “luckier.” What’s you’re “return on luck.” It’s not the number of these events, it’s what you do when these events come.

Squander the lucky events, or capitalize on them.

Out of my wife’s double mastectomy, we came up with the phrase, “Life is about time with people you love.” You can’t ever say “cancer is good.” But we’re getting a high return from that event. So, what is your R.O.M. (return on moments)

It is superior moments of making the most of it rather than squandering it… how do you use a bad event as a defining moment?

It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens to you. Circumstance cannot be the answer. The challenge of leaders. Greatness is not primarily a function of circumstances, it’s a matter of conscious choice and discipline.

What is a great organization? It is one that meets three tests:

1) Superior performance relative to your mission “Good intentions are never an excuse for incompetence.” – Peter Drucker

2) What would be lost if we disappeared. Great organizations are known for their distinctive impact. And you don’t have to be big to do that.

3) You have lasting impact. To leaders: “A truly great organization is not truly great if it cannot be great without you.”

Might there be no greater definition of true friendship than to say “I’m there for you,” no matter what, and always. You will never be alone.

In the end, I believe it is impossible to have a great life without having a meaningful life. And to that, we must have meaningful work.